"The national government must be visible in addressing these problems."
One would think that after facing Ondoy, Yolanda, and a host of other super typhoons, the Philippines should already be a veteran in facing similar storms. It is not unreasonable to expect that government response should already be in place and ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice. We know that we would periodically face such storms. We have had a lot of practice but it seems that we have yet to learn our lessons.
Most of us were unprepared when #UlyssesPH struck. Compared with typhoons Rolly or even Siony, prior information on Ulysses was unusually scanty. Those affected by the two previous storms have not even begun to pick their lives up before Ulysses wreaked more havoc on us.
When Rolly and Siony spared Metro Manila and people, including myself and my family, we were relieved. We expected Rolly to batter the metropolis and thus, prepared for the eventuality. However, after Siony, we did not know that Ondoy 2 was coming at its heels and that it would even be more devastating for many.
My most horrific memory of typhoons was when I was perhaps five or six years old. I do not remember the storm’s name but I vividly recall the experience. We were living at the urban poor community very near the boundary of San Juan and Sta. Mesa. I still remember playing and crossing the gigantic tube (I do not know what this was for) that ran across the body of water between San Juan and Manila.
When the typhoon struck, I remember seeing water everywhere. In hindsight, the river must have overflowed flooding nearby areas. Before we knew it, our small house was already flooded. Next thing I remember is my father carrying both me and my younger brother as he waded through the water onto a bigger house with an upper floor. When we reached the house, a male neighbor reached out from a window to get me and my brother. I remember seeing many of our neighbors’ kids in the only house nearby with a second floor. It became our safe haven.
After the flood subsided, I remember being part of a poor community that was trying very hard to restart lives. I remember my father getting a very bad case of skin disease that looked like nasty wounds on his legs after the flooding. Soon after my father got better, our family left the area and transferred to the inner parts of San Juan. Perhaps my parents did not want to experience the same thing ever again.
So I know the horrors of massive flooding particularly to those living in poor communities. This experience was running through my mind as the howling and hissing winds and torrential rains of super typhoon #UlyssesPH ravaged Metro Manila and other areas. I no longer live in an area that is vulnerable to typhoons but like many, I was up almost the whole night. I was especially worried for Marikina because of the Ondoy catastrophe.
While monitoring, I was online with friends. We were all scared as we updated each other about our situation. I was looking for news reports about what government was doing but all I could find were the responses of LGUs. During times like this, it is always good to see national leaders on top of the situation coordinating efforts to respond to the calamity. It is good to give people hope and assurance that adequate action is being undertaken. People need to know that government cares. Doing this is always good for the nation’s psyche. But it seemed that national government was absent. Were our officials as uninformed as we were?
Trees were swishing and swaying as I have never seen them do. Very heavy rains were nonstop. I heard a nearby Meralco transformer explode. The pitch-black environs after—like the government’s invisibility at a most crucial time—did not help.
We all saw the disaster that ensued. Lives, livelihood, and properties were lost. A friend and his family needed to be rescued. He lost his precious book and old documents collection. Another friend’s house was completely destroyed alongside everything in it. Images of drenched families with children, infants, and pregnant women on their roofs waiting for rescue flooded social media. People were PLEADING to be helped. The picture of a dead toddler cradled by his grieving mother was heartbreaking. This was sickening. Seeing the Filipino people virtually abandoned by the government was too painful.
Ondoy, Yolanda, and Ulysses will surely happen again. The country is predisposed to strong typhoons. It is just a matter of time before the next one brings another disaster if we remain unprepared. We need better and long lasting, if not permanent solutions. For instance, we should remember that Marikina is a VALLEY. As such, flooding is expected. In developing solutions, this fact must be taken into account.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) MUST seriously work with stakeholders including those in flood-prone areas. They should come up with systems, mechanisms, structures, and effective measures to prepare for, and effectively address and manage natural calamities such as super typhoons. Citizens must be involved so they OWN the responses, become responsible, and follow protocols. Communication must be pro-active.
Most importantly, the national government must be visible in addressing these problems. Never again should the Filipino people feel abandoned by their public servants. NEVER AGAIN.
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook